An oleograph of Bhima by Ravi Varma Press
Personal Information
Brothers (Kunti)
  • Ghatotkacha by Hidimbi
  • Vilalsena by Nagashree

    Sutasoma by Draupadi Sarvatrata and Sarvaga ta by Kali Shruta and Vasumitra by Suprabha

    Sarvaga and Sarvanga by Valandhara

Sarvatunga by Pournami DaughtersSamyukta by Draupadi

Taraswini by Kali

In the Hindu epic Mahabharata, Bhima (Sanskrit: भीम, IAST: Bhīma) is the second among the five Pandavas. The Mahabharata relates many events that portray the might of the hero Bhima. Bhima was born when Vayu, the wind god, granted a son to Kunti and Pandu. After the death of Pandu and Madri, Kunti with her sons stayed in Hastinapura. From his childhood, Bhima had a rivalry with his cousins Kauravas, especially Duryodhana. Duryodhana and his uncle, Shakuni, tried to kill Bhima multiple times. One was by poisoning and throwing Bhima into a river. Bhima was rescued by Nāgas and was given a drink which made him very strong and immune to all venom.

After the event of Lakshagriha, the Pandavas and their mother decided to hide from Hastinapura. During this period Bhima slew many rakshasas including Bakasura and Hidimba. Bhima had three wives — Hidimbi, the rakshasi sister of Hidimba, Draupadi, who was married to all the five Pandavas, and Valandhara, a princess of Kashi Kingdom. Ghatotkacha, Sutasoma and Savarga were his three sons.

After the brothers founded the city of Indraprastha, Bhima went to Magadha and killed its mighty ruler, Jarasandha. Later Yudhishthira was invited by Duryodhana to play a game of dice, in which he lost. The Pandavas along with their wife, Draupadi, were sent into exile for thirteen years. During their exile, Bhima met his spiritual brother, Hanuman. For incognito, the Pandavas chose the Matsya Kingdom to hide. There Bhima disguised himself as a cook named Ballava. He also killed the general of the kingdom, Kichaka, as he tried to molest Draupadi. During the Kurukshetra War, Bhima alone killed a hundred Kaurava brothers in the battle. He was considered to have the physical strength of 10,000 elephants approximately.


The word Bhīma in Sanskrit means "fearful", "terrific", "terrible", "awful", "formidable", "tremendous".[1]

Birth and early life

Along with other Pandava brothers, Bhima was trained in religion, science, administration and military arts by the Kuru preceptors, Kripa and Drona. Specifically, he became a master in using the mace. Bhima's strong point throughout the epic remains his towering strength. He was so wrathful and strong that it was impossible even for Indra to subdue him in a battle.[2] Bhima was also renowned for his giant appetite – at times, half of the total food consumed by the Pandavas was eaten by him.[3]

Bhima and Hanuman were celestial brothers, as both of them are Vayu's children. He prayed to Vayu and idolized his brother Hanuman. He used to play practical jokes on the Kaurava brothers; he used to engage in wrestling bouts where he out-powered them with consummate ease.[4][5]

Bhima's antics against his cousins angered Duryodhana so much that he wanted him dead. He hatched a cunning plot where he poisoned Bhima's food and drowned him in river Ganges. The Naga king Vasuki saved Bhima and also apprised him of Duryodhana's hatred for him. It is also Vasuki who bestowed upon him the immense strength of ten thousand elephants.[6]

Duryodhana, with his counsellor Purochana, hatched a plan to burn the Pandavas alive at a palace of lac named Lakshagriha at Varnavata, which Duryodhana had built. Thanks to prior notice from Vidura, the Pandavas managed to escape the palace; Bhima carrying Kunti and his four brothers to safety. Bhima also barricaded the palace of Purochana and set fire to it, thereby ensuring Purochana became a victim of his own evil plot.[7]

After they escaped from the murder plot, Kunti suggests that they live incognito (agyatavasa) to avoid further problems from the Kauravas. During their stay at Ekachakra village (present-day Kaivara)[8] they came to know of a demon, Bakasura, who troubled people by eating members of their village and their provisions. Bhima brought his might to the fore and killed Bakasura, much to the delight of the villagers.[9][10]

Marriage and children

Bhima and Hidimbi, Publisher Ravi Varma Press, Malavi Bombay
Bhima and Hidimbi

At the time Bhima kills the demon Hidimba who was king of demons of the forest Kamyaka, he meets his sister Hidimbi; they eventually get married and have a son, Ghatotkacha. Hidimbi promises Kunti that she and Ghatotkacha will stay out of the Pandavas' lives and away from the luxuries of court. When Bhima killed the demon Hidimba, he became the King of Kamyaka for five years.[11] In the Mahabharata, the demon army from Kamyaka fought the war alongside Pandavas.

When Bhima killed the demon Bakasura,he saved a Naga princess from him named Nagashri.Then they get married and bore a son Vilalsena.They lived in the their maternal kingdom.Vilalsena fought the Kurukshetra War and died.

The Pandavas attended the svayamvara of the princess of Panchala, Draupadi. The Pandavas, led by Arjuna, were successful at the svayamvara. With his brothers, he was married to Draupadi, who gave birth to a son, Sutasoma and a daughter Samyukta.

When Bhima killed Jarasandha,he married his uncle Manibahan/Kushamba's daughter kali.They had two sons Sarvatrata and Sarvagata and a daughter Taraswini.Taraswini's two sons were very loved by Bhima.

Before the Rajasuya,Shishupal married his sister Suprabha to Bhima.They had two sons Shruta and Vasumitra.Jaya/Dradhasena was the son of Shruta.

Bhima married Valandhara,the eldest daughter of Devesha,king of Kashi,in a self choice ceremony.They had two sons Sarvaga and Sarvanga.Sarbhaga succeeded his grandfather as king of kashi.His son was Subarnavarma,and his granddaughter was Vapushtama,the wife of Janamejay.

He also married a rishikanya,named Pournami,when they were exiled for 13 years.Sarvatunga was their son.



Conquest for Rajasuya

When Yudhishthira became emperor of Indraprastha he sent his four younger brothers out in different directions to subjugate kingdoms for the rajasuya sacrifice. Bhima was sent out to the east, since Bhishma thought the easterners were skilled in fighting from the backs of elephants and in fighting with bare arms. He deemed Bhima to be the most ideal person to wage wars in that region. The Mahabharata mentions several kingdoms to the east of Indraprastha which were conquered by Bhima.[7][16] Key battles include his fights with:


Slaying Kirmira

Right at the start of the exile, in the woods of Kamyaka, the Pandavas encountered the demon Kirmira, the brother of Bakasura and a friend of Hidimba. A fierce battle ensued between Bhima and the demon, where the two equally matched fighters hurled rocks and trees at each other. Eventually, Bhima emerged victorious.[19]

Saugandhika's search and encounter with Hanuman

Draupadi requested that Bhima bring her some Saugandhika lotuses after witnessing it's beauty. Bhima sets out into the forest in search of the lotuses when he comes across Hanuman while the latter's tail is in his way. When requested to move the tail out of the way, Hanuman being sleepy asks Bhima to move around it or lift it out of his way, as a test of humility. Bhima tries to move Hanuman's tail out of the way and fails, upon which Hanuman reveals his identity and the fact that he is Bhima's half-brother since both of them are sons of Vayu, the God of Wind.[20]

Killing Jatasura

In another minor incident in the epic, Jatasura, a rakshasa disguised as a Brahmin abducted Yudhishthira, Draupadi and the twin brothers, Nakula, and Sahadeva during their stay at Badarikashrama. His objective was to seize the weapons of the Pandavas. Bhima, who was gone hunting during the abduction, was deeply upset when he came to know of Jatasura's evil act on his return. A fierce encounter followed between the two gigantic warriors, where Bhima emerged victorious by decapitating Jatasura and crushing his body.[21][22]

Cook at Virata's kingdom

Along with his brothers, Bhima spent his last year of exile in the kingdom of Virata. He disguised himself as a cook named Ballava (within themselves Pandavas called him Jayanta).[23] Once during a great festival, people from neighbouring countries had come to the Kingdom of Virata. There was a wrestling bout where a wrestler from a different state, Jimuta proved to be invincible. Much to the delight of King Virata and his subjects, Bhima challenged Jimuta and knocked him out in no time. This greatly enhanced the reputation of the Pandavas in unfamiliar territory.[24]

Kichaka Vadha

Kichaka, the army commander of Virata, tried to sexually assault Draupadi, who was under the guise of a maid named Sairindhri. Draupadi reported this incident to Bhima. Bhima covered himself with silk robes. He slew him the moment he tried to touch him. Kichaka was crushed and slaughtered into a meatball by Bhima. Later Kichaka's allies plotted to murder Sairindri, but Bhima vanquished all of them.[25]

During the Kurukshetra War

Before the battle had begun, Bhima suggested that Satyaki would lead the Pandava forces, as their general, but Yudhishthira and Arjuna opted for Dhrishtadyumna. The charioteer of Bhima's chariot was Vishoka while the flag bore the image of a gigantic lion in silver with its eyes made of lapis lazuli and his chariot was yoked to horses as black as bears or black antelopes.[26][27] He wielded a celestial bow named Vayavya- which was given by Vayu, had a massive conch named Paundra and also possessed a huge mace whose strength is equivalent to a hundred thousand maces (presented by Hanuman). Bhima distinguishes himself in battle several times throughout the war; some of Bhima's major engagements during the war include:

14th day

On the 14th day of the war, Bhima defeated Drona by smashing his chariot eleven times and penetrating the Kaurava formation in order to aid Arjuna in his quest to slay Jayadratha. Duryodhana sends a legion of elephants to check Bhima's advance, and Bhima thoroughly destroys the army, leaving a bloody trail of elephant entrails. Durmasena (Dussasana's son), on Duryodhana's order, attempted to stop Bhima. But Bhima in his bloodlust killed Durjaya by hitting him on the head. Bhima also defeated Alambusha on the 14th day. On the same day, Bhima and Karna fought several times. During one such battle, Bhima while chasing Karna encountered Vikarna along with seven Kaurava brothers. They were sent by Duryodhana to protect Karna. In the battle that ensued, Vikarna was killed. Bhima grieved Vikarna's death by praising his noble deeds.[28] Bhima and Karna engaged in duel in which Karna attempted to hide in his chariot when Bhima had the upper hand. Bhima snatched the flagstaff of Karna's chariot, an action that sent Karna into a fit of rage. However both warriors stayed their hand from slaying each other, remembering their respective oaths.[29] Thirty-one of Duryodhana brothers were also killed by Bhima that day. Bhima slew Bahlika, the King of the Bahlika kingdom, on the night of the fourteenth day.[30]

15th day

On the 15th day of the war, Bhima attacked Duryodhana and defeated him after a fierce exchange.[31] Bhima's son Ghatotkacha was killed by Karna. Bhima saw the day as a failure as he failed to save his son from Karna.[32] Later, he killed an elephant called Ashwatthama as a plan for killing Drona. Bhima is the only one in the Pandava camp who defends Dhrishtadyumna when Arjuna and Satyaki lambast him for Drona's murder.[33] Later Bhima along with Satyaki even saved Dhrishtadyumna from Ashwatthama by covering his escape. They attacked Ashwatthama together before ultimately retreating from the battlefield after being defeated by Kripi.

16th day

Bhima drinks Dushasana's blood, after slaying him.

Bhima was the only warrior who refused to submit to the invincible Narayanastra weapon launched by Ashwatthama and had to dragged to his safety by Arjuna and Krishna.[34] Bhima and Ashwatthama engaged in an archery duel that ended in a draw.[35]

On the 16th day of the war, Karna was appointed to protect Dushasana from the clutches of Bhima. Bhima would defeat Karna in an archery duel and proceed to wreak havoc upon the Kaurava armies by slaughtering thousands of troops.[36] Bhima also defeated Shakuni and caused Duryodhana to flee by firing a hundred arrows at him.[37]

Bhima defeated and brutally killed Dushasana on the 16th day of the war in front of Duryodhana and Karna. Bhima killed Dushasana by beheading him and ripping his chest apart. Bhima then squeezed the blood from Dushasana's heart and dressed Draupadi's hair.[38]

Death of Duryodhana

Bhima fighting with Duryodhana

After 18 days of the war, Duryodhana went and hid under a lake. After given the option to choose the opponent, Duryodhana chose Bhima as his opponent. Bhima clashed with Duryodhana in a mace duel. Though Bhima had superior strength, Duryodhana had superior skills. Krishna reminded Arjuna about Bhima's oath to smash Duryodhana's thigh during the duel. Arjuna signaled to Bhima by slapping his thigh. Understanding that sign, Bhima threw his mace towards Duryodhana's thigh while the latter was in mid-air during a jump.[39] After defeating Duryodhana, Bhima taunted Duryodhana by kicking his head repeatedly and dancing madly.[40] Enraged at this sight, Balarama grabbing his plough attempted to attack Bhima, but was stopped by Krishna. Krishna convinced his brother by reminding him of Bhima's oath and the encroaching onset of the Kali Yuga.[41]

Later years and death

Yudhishthira appointed Bhima as the commander-in-chief of Hastinapura.[42] Upon the onset of the Kali Yuga, Bhima and the other Pandavas retired. Giving up all their belongings and ties, the Pandavas made their final journey of pilgrimage to the Himalayas.

On the journey, the group, one by one, begins to fall. When Bhima tires and falls down, he asks his elder brother why he, Bhima, is unable to complete the journey to heaven. Yudhishthira explains his brother's vice of gluttony. In some versions of the story, Yudhishthira points out Bhima's boastfulness, pride, and battle-lust as the reasons for his fall.

Outside Indian subcontinent


Statue of Bhima in Bali, Indonesia
Werkudara or Bhima statue at the National Museum of Indonesia

Bhima also has clothes that symbolize greatness, namely: Gelung Pudaksategal, Fertilizer Jarot Asem, Sumping Surengpati, Kelatbahu Candrakirana, Nagabanda Belt and Cinde Udaraga Pants. Some of the divine gifts he received included: Kampuh Cloth or Poleng Bintuluaji, Candrakirana Bracelets, Nagasasra Necklaces, Surengpati Sumping Fertilizer and Jarot Asem Pudak Fertilizers.[43]

Bhima is popular among Javanese Muslims.[44]

Wayang story

Werkudara or Bhima wayang (puppetry) in Indonesian culture, especially Java
Bhima relief at Sukuh temple, a hero of the Mahabharata, who stands opposite a pedestaled god within a horseshoe-shaped arch. The figures are sculpted in wayang puppet style, resembling their. leather-puppet counterparts in posture, costume, and sideways presentation.

After Bharatayuddha war was over, the Pandavas came to see King Destarastra and the other Astina elders. It turned out that Destarastra still held a grudge against Werkudara who heard that many of his sons had died at the hands of Werkudara, especially Dursasana who he killed cruelly. When the Pandavas came to pay homage to Destarastra, Destarastra secretly recited the Aji Lebursaketi mantra to destroy Werkudara, however, Prabu Kresna who knew about it pushed Werkudara aside so that the stone statue was affected by the aji-aji. Immediately, the statue was crushed to ashes. Destarastra later admitted his mistake and he withdrew from society and lived as a hermit in the forest with his wife and Dewi Kunti. Some puppet standards say that Prabu Destarastra was killed before the Baratayuda war broke out when Krishna became the Pandavas' ambassador to Astina. At that time he was trampled to death by his sons who were running for fear of the anger of King Krishna who had become a Brahala.[45]

In popular culture


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